‘I’m not fine’: the power of an honest answer

Stephanie Weinert’s Instagram followers have come to expect unfiltered captions to go with her pretty pictures. That’s why she has amassed 7,000 followers, who click on images of her five young children and, in doing so, access her tips on skincare, home decor and liturgical living.

Each one is offered up in the spirit of sisterhood: Here’s what works for me, maybe it’ll help you too. The 39-year-old Catholic from Charlotte, North Carolina, has made a habit of sharing from the heart, starting with her days as a radio host and continuing now as a homeschooling mom and a Beautycounter senior director.

Instagram suits her well, rendering her a stand-in big sister whose extended captions feel like mid-conversation with an old friend.

“I stopped doing this stupid thing I’ve done pretty much my whole life,” she wrote last month in a post. “I stopped saying ‘I’m fine’ when someone asks me how I’m doing. And it’s been life changing.”

The text accompanied a picture of Stephanie holding her infant Beckett, smiling over her shoulder with a cascade of blond curls.

A riveting 400-word message followed: “I hate being a burden, and it’s always felt easier to just say ‘fine’ than to share hard stuff. But the truth is, when we tell our mom, our sister, our pastor, our bestie or our barista that we’re fine, we not only rob ourselves of the chance to be blessed, we also rob ourselves of the chance to be a blessing to others.”

A host of happy encounters flashed in Stephanie’s mind, each one the result of giving an honest answer to a generic inquiry of how she’s doing. The woman behind her in a Trader Joe’s checkout who bought Stephanie flowers after learning her baby has special needs. Her longtime hairdresser who opened up about her struggles as a single mom. The woman at church who spoke freely about her challenges with college-aged children.

The lesson was clear, and Stephanie spelled it out online: “When I stopped saying ‘fine’ and started taking 10 intentional seconds to speak the truth, I found connection, solidarity, useful tips, hugs, humor and prayer support. I’ve made new friends and deepened old ones.”

Moving beyond “I’m fine” means sharing trials and triumphs. Stephanie had hesitated to talk about her business success, but has learned to open up. “I can do it in a way that honors God and also invites other women to come learn from me,” she said.

She concluded her post with brutal honesty: “So here’s me on a Wednesday. I’m not fine. I’m three months out from a traumatic labor and emergency C-section, followed by a surprise heart-defect diagnosis and then a shocking Down Syndrome diagnosis. It’s been hard and emotional. Transitioning to five kids has also been tough. … My God, my amazing husband and beautiful friends lift me up and help me see the beauty in the chaos … Your turn. How are you doing? How can I pray for you today?”

Hundreds of people responded.

“Really burnt out,” one woman wrote.

“The last 8-12 months I have not been in control,” another wrote. “To top it off, I can’t seem to pray or go to confession.”

“I’m not fine either,” another mom wrote. “I feel like I’ve been in survival mode for a long time.”

Foster-care struggles were recounted. Infertility. Unemployment.

“Whew,” Stephanie said of the many comments. “We are a hurting world.”

The best response is honesty: to make others feel less alone and to “witness to a story of grace,” she said. “God is with us in the good and the hard – and other people are too. I’ve learned this firsthand, and it’s such a relief and a blessing.”

Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

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